Cardinals OC Goodwin: Reshuffled O-line will be ready for season

Mar 15, 2016, 7:05 AM | Updated: 10:22 am
(Photo by Craig Grialou/Arizona Sports)...
(Photo by Craig Grialou/Arizona Sports)
(Photo by Craig Grialou/Arizona Sports)

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Long before he was the Arizona Cardinals’ offensive coordinator, Harold Goodwin played along the offensive line for the University of Michigan.

Asked Sunday at the Arians Family Foundation Celebrity Golf Classic what he would tell fans who are wondering what the team will do at center, right guard and right tackle — positions where the team may need to find starters — he hearkened back to his playing days.

“Well, at the center spot I’m doing my best to get in shape right now, and we’ll go from there,” he said.

Goodwin was joking, of course, but his humor underscores the precarious position the Cardinals may find themselves in.

“But I have a lot of confidence in A.Q. (Shipley),” he added. “You guys probably heard a lot of things in the media about (Jonathan Cooper) and that’s a possibility, but as you guys know the center is a huge part of our offense. He directs everything we do up front so that guy’s got to be smart, and I’m sure somewhere in the building we’ve got somebody who can do it.”

With last year’s starter at center, Lyle Sendlein, a free agent, it would seem Shipley would be the next man up. A free agent pickup last offseason, Shipley held the starter’s role through training camp, but was unable to hold off Sendlein once he was re-signed.

As for Cooper, the idea of moving the 2013 first-round pick to the middle of the line has been floated around some as the team tries to find a place for the player it chose with the seventh overall selection just a few years ago. Drafted as a left guard, Cooper was the team’s starting right guard for much of last season before an injury sent him to the sideline and then, ultimately, the bench.

Picking up another position would present some challenges for the 26-year-old.

“Just feel comfortable having somebody over your nose, probably, every snap, where at guard sometimes you’re not covered,” Goodwin said. “And just being comfortable working with Carson, getting snaps up, (shotgun) snaps, and, like I said, directing the offense.

“Because he’s in charge of the Mike (linebacker) point, he’s in charge of our blocking schemes, and the guy’s got to be smart.”

No one has ever doubted Cooper’s intelligence, and Goodwin said having to essentially learn three different positions in three seasons should not be a problem for the former North Carolina Tar Heel.

The way Goodwin sees it, if you’re getting paid to play, you better do whatever you can.

“It shouldn’t be hard for Coop; he’s been around long enough now, he understands what’s on the table, what he has to do to be a top-notch player,” he said. “When he first got here he was very confident in himself, he played his butt off and then he got hurt. Right now he’s starting to build that confidence back.

“He understands there’s a lot of pressure on him this year and he looks forward to the challenge.”

Whether Cooper ends up being the team’s center or not, that position is not the only one that will be watched closely as the offseason progresses.

The moment Bobby Massie chose to sign with the Chicago Bears, 2015 first-round pick D.J. Humphries was elevated to first-string right tackle. The 24th overall selection was inactive for every game last season as the team chose to “red shirt” him, with the idea being he would mature both physically and mentally in preparation for this upcoming season.

Nicknamed “Knee Deep” in training camp because he required more than a foot in the behind to get going, the coaches heaped plenty of praise on him toward the end of the season and then early in the offseason. If the team does turn to the former Florida Gator, Goodwin believes he’ll be ready.

“He’s working out hard right now; he checks in with me once a week,” Goodwin said, noting the chats are more like a father-son talk where the topic is life, not football. “He’s a great kid, he wants to be great. I just think now in college football, very seldom are you going to find a guy you’re going to draft early who is going to come in and play right away because of the offenses in college and they don’t lift the weights like we lift them.

“But as the season went long and D.J. understood what it took to play, what it is going to take to play, he was a whole lot better.”

The Cardinals would benefit greatly if Humphries and Cooper are able to play at a high level this upcoming season, and Goodwin mentioned Earl Watford — who played guard and right tackle last season — may also factor into the equation. If Cooper plays center and Humphries right tackle, the offensive coordinator said he would have no concerns over Watford being the right guard because “there would be a lot of violence going on” on the right side of the line.

It’s the middle of March and the team’s roster will undoubtedly undergo more changes, but when it gets down to it, Goodwin said he does not care who the starting offensive linemen are so long as they play at a high level.

Heading into a season in which 3/5 of the line could see new starters, there would seem to be no guarantees of that being the case.

“It seems like every year you’ve got to replace (linemen),” Goodwin said. “I was just telling somebody a little while ago that it’s hard as a line coach, coaching a line or even being a coordinator when you have to start over every year at that position group, but it is what it is, we’ve got to have 11 on the grass.

“So by the time training camp rolls around, we’ll have five out there.”

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